Advances in regular hard drive tech are still very important, especially in the enterprise space. No, James Kirk doesn't need more gigabytes to keep his extraterrestrial porn collection — but the cloud does need more bits to hold your dirty pictures and videos and the odd work document. And so, we now have drives filled with helium.
You may remember some talk of helium-filled hard drives a few years back, but like a lot of new technologies, it's taken time to get the manufacturing processes into line to ship the buggers in bulk.
Seagate, for instance, has only now started pumping its, uh, 10TB "light" drives in volume. As you'd expect for massive capacities like this, the target is enterprise customers who will reap the most benefits of the helium infusion.
So, what good does helium do inside a hard drive? It does plenty good:
...A standard 3.5-inch HDD filled with helium can accommodate seven platters rather than five, dramatically raising the ceiling for storage capacity and reducing the weight to data ratio by 30 percent ... Helium-filled drives are also sealed (to prevent gas leakage), letting them be liquid-cooled safely, unlike standard HDDs that cannot be submerged without risk of damage to the disks.
In addition, the drives can use up to 20-30 per cent less power and the weight can drop anywhere from 30-40 per cent. Some nice numbers for you and I, but when you think about having hundreds of the things in server racks, the savings really start to add up.
Of course, helium is not cheap — and neither is the technology. Seagate's 10TB model goes for $US696, which is about two to three times the price of your average 8TB drive, but not utterly ridiculous, all things considered.